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Title-winning passes, grass allergies and that t-shirt: Why Mario Balotelli’s time in Manchester will become folklore

By Paddy von Behr & Pippa Field

Mario Balotelli’s time in England may be up, but his two and a half years with Manchester have provided more than enough entertainment.

As he completes his £20million move to AC Milan, MM looks back at the highs and lows of man who thought pre-season tours are a chance to perfect backheels, ripped his shirt off after a glimmer of Euro 2012 brilliance and would gret ‘100 punches to the head everyday’ from his devoted mentor Roberto Mancini.


Highlights:

The Italian announced his arrival in the North West in 2010 in style, crashing his custom-fitted Audi R8 during a little drive around town.

Police arrived on the scene and went about their routine procedure – taking names and breath tests – before patting down the youngster.

To his shock, one officer found £5,000 hanging out of Mario’s back pocket, prompting the coppers to ask why he carries around so much cash.

“Because I’m rich,” he replied, and the tabloid favourite was born.


CAN’T DRESS THIS: Balo’s bib nightmare went viral across the world

Footage of his struggle with a bib then went viral and it became clear everything the boy touched turned to gold – or in the bib’s case, a puzzle.

Not content with accidental comedy, Mario turned to novelty headwear, arriving at a match in December sporting a ‘chicken hat’.

The odd piece was named so due to the way it caused Balotelli to look like devious jewel thief Feathers McGraw in The Wrong Trousers.


CHICKEN HAT: Mario’s headwear resembles Wallace & Gromit jewel thief

City went on to clinch the FA Cup trophy in Balotelli’s first season at the club and joyous scenes ensued.

Mario was delighted with the silverware, but not as impressed by his performances throughout the campaign.

During an on-the-pitch interview after the game he said: “My season was s***, can I say that?” No Mario, you can’t.

And, of course, the moment that cemented Balotelli as the enfant terrible of English football – ‘Why Always Me?’


ALWAYS HIM: Balotelli’s infamous celebration after taking the lead in derby

In October of last season, Mario helped City to a crushing 6-1 win over rivals Manchester United by cooling slotting past David De Gea.

However, his celebration was cooler still, lifting his shirt to reveal the now famous slogan.

But his most telling contribution in a sky blue shirt is one that didn’t command so many column inches.

Sergio Aguero’s title-clinching injury time winner against Queens Park Rangers was, calmly as ever, laid on by that man Mario.


Lowlights:

For each of Balotelli’s entertaining antics, there has been an irresponsible and unimpressive counterpart.

Take his apparent affinity for a red card. Or two.

An on song Super Mario is unplayable, as seen with his impressive two goals against Germany in the European Championship semi-final last summer that left his agent claiming he was worth £200million (not quite evidently).

But even from the first moment he pulled on a City shirt it was clear there was Jekyll and Hyde character just waiting to escape.

Two goals on debut against West Bromwich Albion in November 2010 was a great way to make an entrance – shame it then had to be marred by a red card.

During the following two and a bit years, the fiery hot-head would go on to collect a further three red cards, including one for a stamp on the head Tottenham’s Scott Parker.


HEAD STAMP: Balotelli was not sent off and went to grab a crucial equaliser

So intent, it seemed, was he on derailing his side’s chances last season he even picked himself up a three-match ban at Arsenal just in time for the title run-in – after which Mancini he would never play again.

After all that he had the tenacity to want to take his own employers to tribunal when they fined him for a poor disciplinary record.

But it was not just on the pitch where it all kicked off as he produced a series of extraordinary off-field headlines.

Take March 2011 – not one of Balotelli’s finest months.

Fresh from an allergic reaction to grass of all things, the striker apparently decided to turn his target practice to humans rather than goals as he launched darts at City youth players.

Later in the year after breaking numerous curfews, he ignited back pages on Manchester derby weekend as firefighters were called to his house after a firework was set off in his bathroom.

Mario showed his gentle side and fronted a fireworks safety campaign days later to prove he understood the use of sparklers really.


SAFETY FIRST: Bathroom blast educates Mario about where to set of fireworks

Not one to leave his friends out, Mario also seemed to like picking his fights closer to home too, especially on the training ground.

Pictures showing a bust-up with teammate Micah Richards in December 2011 were followed this year with the incredible shots of Mario and manager Roberto Mancini squaring up to each other.

Despite assurances by the boss that he would give the player ‘100 chances’ to change, it would appear the club’s patience with the Italian maverick finally run out.

And so the striker has returned to his native country to start a new chapter of the incredible story that is Mario Balotelli.

Interestingly AC Milan were quick to introduce their new player on the website with his ‘Super Mario’ nickname. Perhaps they should also include ‘good luck’ in the middle of that too.

Images courtesy of mcfc showtimehd, with thanks

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